How to Find and Verify an Online Pharmacy

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Keeping yourself safe when purchasing medication online involves two basic requirements. Now that you know how to keep yourself safe on your end by increasing security on your computer, it’s time to look at the second part of keeping your information safe — choosing a legitimate and trustworthy pharmacy.

What’s the best way to find an online pharmacy? You could simply type “online pharmacy” into a search engine like Google, but that’s not the method we recommend. Unfortunately, at the time of the writing of this guide, the results are just as likely to contain scammy “rogue” pharmacies as they are to show you legitimate pharmacies.

The better way to find a safe pharmacy to do business with is to look for online pharmacies that are licensed and certified by the appropriate regulatory authorities based on their location. For example, online pharmacies in the U.S. are licensed by the department of health of the state in which they are located and are regulated by the Food & Drug Administration. Canadian online pharmacies are a perfectly viable, safe, and regulated option as well – and usually cheaper than even online U.S. pharmacies. Although they are outside the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Health and the FDA, Canada has its own regulatory agencies to ensure the safety of the medications that are dispensed.

For Canadian online pharmacies, one good place to start is the website of a regulatory authority like the Canadian International Pharmacy Association, www.cipa.com. This website offers a link to a listing of member pharmacies so you have a good starting point for your search. You can also find a listing of rogue and fraudulent pharmacies so that you know which companies to avoid.

Is Your Online Canadian Pharmacy Legitimate?

Use this checklist to determine whether the online Canadian pharmacy you have chosen is legitimate and safe:

  • A verifiable license from a Canadian regulatory authority is available on their website.
  • The pharmacy should have a brick-and-mortar location that can be verified.
  • The pharmacy must require that all patients present a valid prescription provided by a licensed physician.
  • A phone number that patients can call for assistance with ordering or questions about their medication should be available. Experienced licensed pharmacists should be available regularly to answer questions and provide counsel to patients.
  • A full range of medications should be available through the pharmacy, not just popular “lifestyle” drugs such as impotence drugs and weight-loss drugs or narcotic painkillers.
  • The pharmacy should never inundate you with spam or other unsolicited marketing.
  • The pharmacy should comply fully with the Canadian PIPEDA regulations, which are similar in scope to the U.S. HIPAA law. This information and the pharmacy’s policy should be stated clearly on their website.
  • All fees and services should be clearly displayed with no hidden fees or other charges.
  • The pharmacy’s website should be free from sensational announcements promising a new or quick cure for serious diseases and disorders.
  • Information about where the pharmacy procures the medications they sell should be available and transparent for the patients. Notifications about recalls and other drug warnings should be provided to patients.
  • Patients should receive printed counseling for their medications with the option of further one-on-one counseling with an experienced and licensed pharmacist or physician.

Am I Dealing With a Rogue Pharmacy?

Some rogue pharmacies take careful steps to appear legitimate but are often given away by simple mistakes. If you are doing business with a pharmacy that engages in any of the following practices, stop your transaction and look for another pharmacy:

  • The pharmacy is either not licensed or listed by a regulatory agency, or does not display a license number on their website.
  • The pharmacy exists only online and does not have a verifiable physical location.
  • The pharmacy appears to be new with no track record or patient reviews available.
  • A Canadian pharmacy is not listed on the CIPA’s website or any of its province counterparts.
  • The pharmacy does not inform you about where they purchase your medications or what you can expect them to look like.
  • No phone number is available.
  • Counseling is either not offered or is done by someone other than a licensed and experienced physician or pharmacist.
  • The pharmacy does not require a prescription written by a licensed U.S. physician or provides a “prescription” based on a questionnaire. “No prescription required” is often stated on the websites of rogue pharmacies.
  • Only popular weight-loss or impotence medications, narcotics, benzodiazepines, and other highly regulated medications are available through the pharmacy.
  • The pharmacy sends you unsolicited spam, print mail, or other marketing materials after you visit their website.
  • The pharmacy and its website advertise “amazing” results, “new” cures, and other promises that appear to be too good to be true.
  • Additional, unstated fees are tacked on to your purchases.